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Tens of thousands of university staff on strike today – with more to come | UK News

Tens of thousands of university staff are set to go on strike today – the first of three walkouts planned for this week.

Some 70,000 members of the University and College Union (UCU) are set to take part in the action, spanning 150 universities across the UK.

Lecturers will be among those not turning up to work as a dispute over pay, contracts, and pensions continues.

Strikes are also set to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

It comes after the union’s higher education committee voted to continue action last week, and not to put the latest proposals from employers to a vote of its members.

Unions including the UCU had said that a deal with the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) had been reached “on terms of reference for detailed negotiations”, including on pay and workload.

Read more:
Who is going on strike in 2023 and when?

But hopes of a breakthrough were later quashed by the UCU’s higher education committee.

Raj Jethwa, Universities and Colleges Employers Association chief executive, said the agreement “reflected the employers’ genuine desire to positively reset industrial relations in our sector”.

“There is a tangible offer on the table from employers to negotiate on the issues at the heart of this dispute,” he added.

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Monday marks the start of a seventh week of strike action by higher education workers.

Tens of thousands of elderly people have died without getting the care they need, charity says | UK News

Tens of thousands of elderly people have died without getting the care they need, according to a charity which is calling for more social care resources.

Age UK cited NHS Digital figures for England which show there were 28,890 support requests for people aged 65 and over in 2021/22 where the person died without any of those services being provided.

The charity said that equates to more than 500 deaths a week – more than 70 a day.

Age UK director Caroline Abrahams said: “There isn’t enough social care to go round and so some older people are waiting endlessly for help they badly need.

“It is heartbreaking that on the latest figures, more than 500 older people a week are going to their graves without ever receiving the care and support to which they were entitled.

“Nor can the blame for this parlous situation be placed on the pandemic, for while it certainly didn’t help, social care services were struggling to secure enough staff and funding in the years preceding it.

“Since then, all the evidence is that the position has not got any better and, on most measures, has continued to get worse.”

Ms Abrahams said long waits for social care cause “huge distress to older people” and place “intolerable pressure on their families”.

Read more:
Weak link of social care is taking UK’s health sector to breaking point
Care home capacity in UK shrinks for first time in three years

The charity has written to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt saying: “When you were chair of the health and social care committee, you expressed deep regret at being unable to fix the problems faced by social care during your time as secretary of state.

“Now, as chancellor, the Spring Budget is your opportunity to help the millions of older people, often unheard and feeling ignored, who are waiting for good, reliable care and support to live with dignity.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Everyone should have access to good quality social care when they need it, and our thoughts are with all those who have lost elderly relatives and loved ones.

“We are providing up to £7.5m in funding available over the next two years to support adult social care.

“This will put the adult social care system on a stronger financial footing and help local authorities address waiting lists, low fee rates, and workforce pressures in the sector.

“We are also tackling workforce pressures by promoting careers in adult social care through our annual domestic recruitment campaign and by investing £15m to increase international recruitment of care workers.”

Tens of thousands of homes without power as Storm Otto brings strong winds to UK | UK News

Tens of thousands of homes are without power as Storm Otto brings winds of more than 80mph to parts of the UK.

Energy company SSEN said that, as of 11am Friday, 30,000 properties in Scotland were without power and it could be more than two days before supply is restored.

The network has a number of faults on its high voltage network due to fallen trees, branches and other windblown debris.

Mark Rough, operations director at SSEN Distribution, said power has been restored to 10,000 properties so far.

He added: “Despite the widespread nature of the storm, coupled with ongoing adverse weather conditions and challenges with access, our teams have made good progress restoring power to homes impacted.

“With wind speeds expected to subside from around midday, we expect to make significant progress throughout the course of today.”

In England, around 1,300 homes in Ripon and 1,330 homes near Chester-le-Street, County Durham, are without power, with Northern Powergrid also reporting supply cuts in Northumberland, Darlington and Leeds.

The Met Office recorded wind gusts of 83mph at Inverbervie in Scotland’s north east, while winds elsewhere reached up to 75mph.

Schools were closed in some parts of Scotland, particularly in the Highlands and Aberdeenshire, and the roof of a school in Carnoustie, Angus, was damaged by the wind.

In Aberdeenshire, the council said several GP practices were operating emergency services only, as they were among those to have lost power supply.

Train operator Scot Rail is also running an emergency timetable with speed restrictions.

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Yellow weather warnings for wind are in place covering parts of north and north-east England and southern Scotland until 2pm, while a warning for snow and ice in parts of Scotland starts late tonight and lasts until 9am tomorrow.

In other Otto-related disruption on Friday:

• A1(M) affected by a number of closures or delays due to overturned lorries – between J48 and 49, and 60 and 59
• A1(M) closed to high-sided vehicles in both directions between J47 and 56
• Leeds Bradford Airport is open but there is disruption to flights, a spokesperson said
• Some services cancelled by London North Eastern Railway
• Tree blocking the rail line between Harrogate and Knaresborough in Yorkshire
• Reports of trees blocking roads in Harrogate and Leeds

A person walking a dog on Tynemouth beach on the North east coast, as Storm Otto hits parts of Scotland and north-east England as it moves across the UK on Friday.
Tynemouth beach

A Met Office spokesperson said: “The strong winds from Storm Otto will ease through the day as the low pressure moves out into the North Sea.

“After a relatively dry day with good sunny spells in places, cloud will build from the west this evening before rain and snow move across most parts overnight.”

Check the forecast in your area

Forecasters said snow is likely to fall in locations over 300 metres, with 2-5cm possible across the warning area, and 5-10cm over the highest locations.

“Rain and hill snow will ease in the early morning of Saturday, with some brightness, though rain will return later from the west. There will be some drizzly rain further south, but it will be mild with a few brighter spells by afternoon.

“Wet and windy conditions will return for the north of Scotland on Sunday as an area of low pressure skirts to the north of the UK.”

Tens of thousands facing Christmas without water after pipes burst | UK News

Thousands of homes in southeast England are at risk of spending Christmas without running water after freezing temperatures caused pipes to burst.

Water companies are working to reconnect households in large parts of Sussex, Kent and Hampshire before the holiday weekend.

Firms said the rapid thaw of frozen pipes had increased the number of bursts and leaks, causing storage reservoir levels to drop following the sub-zero temperatures.

South East Water said it is “committed to getting its customers who are currently without water back in supply by Christmas Day if not sooner”.

The firm said there was a 300% increase in the number of bursts, and chief executive David Hinton told BBC South East Today about 5,000 properties were still affected on Wednesday.

Southern Water said in a statement: “We are currently facing significant pressure on our water supply in parts of Hampshire, caused by a combination of factors including leaks resulting from the recent ‘freeze/thaw’ event.

“This has meant demand for water is outstripping the ability of our water treatment sites to keep taps running.

“We are working as hard as we can to solve this issue, tackling leaks and stabilising supply, but we must also make difficult decisions to reduce demand – in order to protect critical Hampshire infrastructure like hospitals.

“This is why we unfortunately have to restrict water supplies to some customers in parts of Hampshire, for a period of at least 48 hours.”

Both water companies apologised for the disruption.

Emergency supplies of bottled water have been delivered to towns and villages.

Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North, tweeted: “I’ve asked Southern Water to set up a bottled water station in Southampton – not acceptable that the closest one is the park and ride at Winchester.”

Mr Hinton said in a statement: “Our teams are working flat out to find, fix and repair the leaks on our pipes but we’re asking customers to help too by checking their homes, businesses, empty properties, outside taps and troughs in any fields for leaks and get them repaired as soon as possible.

“Leaks within properties can cause extensive damage which can be costly to repair.”

The news comes just days after burst pipe in north London forced several homes to be evacuated.

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A burst water pipe has left roads and homes flooded in north London

A 42-inch water main burst overnight on Saturday unleashing flooding half a metre deep across an area of around 800 metres.

Eight fire engines and around 60 firefighters were called to Belsize Road in the London Borough of Camden at around 3am on Saturday morning.

Tens of thousands of nurses to strike today in first mass walkout in a century | UK News

Tens of thousands of nurses are going on strike today for their first mass walkout in a century across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The action, a bid to secure above-inflation pay rises, is going ahead after talks to avert it ended in a deadlock.

Picket lines are being set up at dozens of hospitals and thousands of NHS appointments and operations have been cancelled, with the health service running a bank holiday-style service in many areas.

Share your NHS experience – how are the strikes affecting you?

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said it will still staff chemotherapy, emergency cancer services, dialysis, critical care units, neonatal and paediatric intensive care.

Some areas of mental health and learning disability and autism services are also exempt from the strike, while trusts have been told they can request staffing for specific clinical needs.

When it comes to adult A&E and urgent care, nurses will work Christmas Day-style rotas.

Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers, said agency NHS trusts were “pulling out all the stops” to lessen the impact on patients.

She said: “But it’s inevitable that some operations or appointments will have to be rescheduled, and trusts are pulling out all the stops to minimise disruption.

“The cold snap has ramped up demand that was already at or close to record levels, but on strike day NHS trusts will do everything they can to ensure that essential services are properly staffed and patient safety, always the number one priority, is safeguarded.”

Read More:
How strike will impact A&E and other NHS services – and which hospitals are affected

RCN chief executive Pat Cullen has accused Health Secretary Steve Barclay of “belligerence” after he refused to discuss the issue of pay – because the government has already accepted recommendations made by the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) to give below inflation pay rises of around 4%.

This would have seen them get a pay rise of around £1,400.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay in Westminster, London, ahead of his meeting with Pat Cullen, the head of the Royal College of Nurses (RCN), as he tries to avert strike action. Nurses have voted to strike in the majority of NHS employers in a row over pay, the first UK-wide strike action in its 106-year history. Picture date: Thursday November 10, 2022.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay has been criticised by the head of the Royal College of Nursing

The RCN has been calling for a pay rise at 5% above inflation, though it has indicated it would accept a lower offer.

When it submitted the 5% figure to the independent pay review body in March, inflation was running at 7.5%.

But inflation has since soared, with RPI standing at 14.2% in September.

‘A tragic first’

Meanwhile, in Scotland, RCN members are being consulted on a revised pay offer from the Scottish government.

Ms Cullen said: “Nurses are not relishing this, we are acting with a very heavy heart.

“It has been a difficult decision taken by hundreds of thousands who begin to remove their labour in a bid to be heard, recognised and valued.

“It is a tragic first for nursing, the RCN and the NHS.

“Nursing staff on picket lines is a sign of failure on the part of governments.

“My plea to patients is to know that this strike is for you too – it’s about waiting lists, treatments that are cancelled year round and the very future of the NHS.”

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Royal College of Nursing leader Pat Cullen says the government’s ‘turned its back’ on nurses

The RCN has also raised the issue of huge staff vacancies in the NHS, with 47,000 nurse roles empty in England alone. And it has warned strike action may need to continue into January if the government does not re-negotiate on pay.

The health secretary said nurses were “incredibly dedicated to their job” and that it was “deeply regrettable some union members are going ahead with strike action”.

Mr Barclay added: “My number one priority is to keep patients safe – I’ve been working across government and with medics outside the public sector to ensure safe staffing levels – but I do remain concerned about the risk that strikes pose to patients.

“Nevertheless, the NHS is open and patients should continue to seek urgent medical care – and attend appointments – unless they’ve been contacted by the NHS.”

He said paying nurses more “would mean taking money away from frontline services at a time when we are tackling record waiting lists as a result of the pandemic.”

Read more:
Who is striking this winter and why?

But pressure is mounting on the government to find a compromise on pay, with former Conservative Party chairman Sir Jake Berry saying it “is going to have to improve its offer”.

“We need to find a way as a government, and the union does too, to get to that centre point, that point of agreement straight away,” he told Talk TV.

During the strike, nurses will man picket lines at major NHS hospitals, including Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust in London, Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

Several trusts have already given details of cancelled outpatient appointments and planned treatments.

The Western Trust in Northern Ireland said it had “regrettably taken the decision to cancel some non-emergency services”, with 587 outpatient appointments postponed across Altnagelvin Hospital, Omagh Primary Care and Treatment Centre and South West Acute Hospital.

The trust said there would also be reduced staffing in community nursing services including rapid response nursing, district nursing, community respiratory nursing and continence services.

A view of signs from the Royal College of Nursing during a protest outside the Conservative Party conference at the ICC in Birmingham, England, Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Pic: AP

In Wales, the Welsh government said non-urgent or routine appointments are likely to be postponed.

On Wednesday, the head of NHS Employers said “real concerns” remain about the level of cover nurses will provide for cancer patients during the strike.

In a letter to NHS leaders, Danny Mortimer said some aspects of talks with the RCN had been disappointing and warned that “unless the government indicates a willingness to negotiate on pay-related matters, further strike dates will be announced by the RCN for January 2023 and beyond”.

A second RCN nurse strike is set for 20 December, while thousands of ambulance workers will go on strike on 21 December.

The RCN has urged agency workers not to cover for striking staff.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) began the first of two 48-hour strikes at Network Rail – and 14 train companies – on Tuesday, which will last until Friday.

There is also industrial action planned in a whole number of UK spheres, including paramedics, postal workers, Border Force agents, firefighters, driving instructors, bus operators, airport baggage handlers and even coffin makers.